The Democrats will maintain control of the Senate, meaning easier confirmations for political appointees and less combative investigations.
Almost a week after Election Day, we still don’t know if we’re entering a new era of divided government, but at a minimum, the Democrats are maintaining control of the Senate. This means the Biden administration will likely face fewer combative investigations from that chamber and have an easier time getting its nominees confirmed.
News outlets on Saturday reported that Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., defeated her Republican challenger, following the victory of Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., announced on Friday night, thus securing the Democrats’ hold on the Senate (50-49). The Georgia Senate race will go to a run-off next month, but even if a Republican wins there, the Democrats would retain a majority with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaker.
“We want to get a lot done to help the American people” and build on the success of the last Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in remarks to the press on Sunday, while also acknowledging “we’re not going to get everything we want.” He continued: “And I say to my Republican colleagues, and particularly [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.], the non-MAGA parts of the Republican party, 'Work with us to get things done. The last two years proved that we can.' ”
A Democratic-controlled Senate likely means the Biden administration will have an easier time getting its nominees confirmed. However, there are roadblocks Republicans can still put up, such as by putting a hold on nominations. Of positions requiring confirmation that The Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service are tracking, the president had yet to nominate 79 as of Monday morning, three were awaiting formal nomination, 124 were being considered and 465 had been confirmed. The tracker does not include judges.
Additionally, the Biden administration is not expected to face the same types of investigations from Senate committees with Democrats in the majority as it would under Republican control, as Republicans will not have subpoena power or agenda-setting authority.
For example, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who was reportedly in line to either become chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee or the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in his victory speech after winning re-election, “when I return to the Senate, as chairman, I promise you this: the COVID coverup will end.” He also vowed to “subpoena every last document” of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the president’s chief medical adviser, who is stepping down from those roles next month.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the primary oversight panel in the Senate, did not seek reelection. That panel is the counterpart to the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
“We feel good about where we are,” President Biden said on Sunday during a press gaggle while in Cambodia, in regard to the Senate news. When asked if it’s better for him to have a majority of 50 or 51 compared to a potential flip, Biden said, “It’s always better with 51 because we're in a situation where you don't have to have an even makeup of the committees…But it's just simply better. The bigger the numbers, the better.”
As for the House, as of Monday morning the Republicans still had the lead (212 seats, compared to the Democrats’ 204), but there were more races that still needed to be called before determining the majority in that chamber.
House Democrats are scheduled to hold their leadership elections on November 30, Senate Democrats the week of December 5, Senate Republicans on November 16 and House Republicans on November 15, The Hill reported.
As Government Executive previously reported, a Republican controlled House would mean investigations into Biden family members, the origins of COVID, the Justice Department, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s border policies.
Over the weekend, President Biden accepted the resignation of Chris Magnus, commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, following a news report that he was “unengaged” and more than a dozen House Republicans calling for him to resign, which could add fuel to Republican-led probes.
“Two hundred eighteen is the magic number, so as long as we maintain 218, then we’ll have the chairmanships and with a couple of committees, including the House oversight, along with the chairmanship comes subpoena power,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee who is expected to become chair if the House flips, in an interview on Fox News on Sunday. “That’s very important because as you know we’ve requested a lot of information from this administration while we’ve been in the minority for the past two years and this administration has blocked us at every turn.”
If the Republicans win the House, Comer said he will be taking the lead on investigations and his committee will partner with others, so they don’t duplicate work.
When asked about the planned Republican investigations into his family members, particularly his son, Biden said on Wednesday during a press conference, “I think the American public wants us to move on and get things done for them.”
Additionally, “I heard it was reported many times that Republicans were saying that the former president said, ‘How many times are you going to impeach Biden?’ I think the American people will look at that for what it is: almost comedy,” the president continued. “I can’t control what they are going to do. All I can do is continue to make life better for the American people.”